How Political Correctness Destroys the Brain

by ROBERT WEISSBERG September 3, 2010
Political Correctness is often viewed as just a nuisance regarding choice of words or telling “offensive” jokes. Wrong. It is a mental condition that debilitates our genetically wired ability to defend ourselves.  As a long-time student of this disorder, let me explain its character, how it renders us defenseless and offer suggestions on fighting back.
Political Correctness (PC) is the subordination of truth, often forcefully, to political ideology. PC vigorously converts “ought” into “is” even if nearly everyone knows that “ought” is not “is.” As Larry Summers discovered, if feminist doctrine insists that women and men have innate equal mathematical talent, then this is a “scientific fact” despite all contrary objective evidence. PC turns lies into truths, for example, the perpetrator becomes the victim, to advance an ideology or religious doctrine.
PC can be summarized by its Five Commandments.
First, Thou Shalt Not Offend. This is the preeminent value even if human life is at stake. If a visiting friend wants to visit a black neighborhood with a sky-high crime rate, you give no warning since broaching “black crime” offends blacks, even if no blacks are present.
Second, Thou Shalt Not Even Think Offensive Thoughts. Entertaining “bad” thoughts even subconsciously, is impermissible. In the PC world, “bad thoughts” inevitably leads to “bad behavior” and even unexpressed thoughts can harm, e.g., a male math teacher may unwittingly ignore female students due to unconscious stereotypes about their innumeracy and thus discourage them from obtaining a Ph.D. in math.
Third, Thou shalt purge Society of Evil Thoughts. Purification must be 100%. PC mirrors epidemiology—just one case of smallpox can spread and kill everyone, so one hate crime in an otherwise peaceful society requires immediate action.
Fourth, Thou Shalt Be One’ Own Censor. Utopia arrives when offensive thoughts never enter the brain, and this requires constant self-imposed vigilance. In the meantime, expelling “dangerous thoughts” requires sensitivity training and censoring materials potentially promoting bad thinking.  In a phrase, willful blindness.
Five, Thou Shalt Reward the Offended by Taking from Sinners. Today’s political landscape overflows with hyper-sensitive advocacy groups. To offend them, no matter how true the offending remark, will instigate immediate cries for restitution. In universities, for example, broaching a hate fact must be ameliorated with more jobs and programs for the offended group (often called “justice”).
 Clearly, PC runs contrary to human nature. Homo Sapiens has survived for over 180,000 years only by confronting harsh reality. PC turns off our hard-wired early-warning radar. Cavemen did not send Cavewomen into battle since admitting male superiority in fighting might offend sensitive women. If they did, the tribe quickly exited the gene pool. Ditto for the ancients who welcomed violence-prone strangers to promote diversity—very few of their offspring live to tell the tale. The survival instinct is often disguised with hypocrisy—white liberals will always be PC on race until their children are bused to a largely black school, then junior is enrolled in a private, nearly all-white school. Worse, achieving “offensive free” brains will inevitably lead to totalitarianism since mild measures like voluntary sensitivity training will be replaced by more Draconian Communist-style brainwashing. In any case, one way or another, PC is antithetical to America as we know it.
PC has become the weapon of choice among gold medal winners in today’s victimhood Olympics. It is just so easy and the PC attack—your words are harmful, insensitive, you are a bigot—can effectively kill bad news messengers and cover the accuser’s own evil. It also can pay-off handsomely. As per Commandment Five, let an FBI agent criticize a Muslim proven group’s terrorist ties, and the predictable outrage will be, “This is dangerous hate, so let us run paid seminars for FBI agents to prevent similar future “hateful” outbursts (and, left unsaid, learn the identities of FBI agents).  
PC is an intellectual equivalent of AIDS. It invades the brain, eats out its natural immunity system against legitimate threats and the helpless victim quickly succumbs. And all the while the victim feels great about being caring, tolerant and virtuous. At the national level, this is painless suicide. Hard to imagine a more potent weapon to defeat one’s enemies.
PC cannot be defeated by marshalling sound evidence, no matter how compelling. Forget about “dialogue,” even if “meaningful.” The PC crowd are masters of duplicitous rebuttal—opponent’s facts are “only” dangerous stereotypes, somewhere in the universe exists a contrary fact, the objectionable fact is uncertain (the term, “controversial” often signifies this rejoinder), and, for the academically inclined, all truth is socially constructed so my “truth” is as valid as yours. Particularly popular is that while admitting your fact may technically be true, its expression will cause terrible harm, even violence, and so it is best suppressed. For the PC-infected, what is to be gained by publishing statistics on IQ by immigrant group or the proportion of boys and girls who score above 750 on the math SAT?   
The only solution is a blunt public commitment to truth-telling regardless of inflicting discomfort. The doctor visit model is the appropriate approach—don’t mince words when explaining where that nasty rash was acquired. Leave white lies for friends. Admittedly, this is difficult since frankness often risks being ostracized, hostile stares and rebukes about being “harmful” and “insensitive.” But, when the topic is important, just treat this “you-are-offensive” rebuke as a sign that complainers suffer a medical disorder. Their half-eaten brain renders them unable to recognize the truth. PC is a hallucinogenic disorder, a throwback to the 1960s when people fried their brains with LSD.
There is some good news here. The PC folk are cowardly bullies, far more bark than bite, whose key ability is to sense fear in those who might express a plain-to-see truth. PC intimidation is the weapon of choice among the weak. Larry Summers’ feminist attackers had a weak hand and thus had no other choice that to cry “male chauvinist.” That blatantly false epitaph far outshined conducting serious research on male/female cognitive differences (and research might have confirmed Larry’s speculations).
Second, expressing a forbidden but widely recognized truth will embolden like-minded thinkers. PC succeeds when heretics feel isolated. If a second person chimes in, other will join, and soon there is a chorus. Look at the “unexpected” opposition to the ground zero mosque—it only took a few to marshal widespread outrage. Being first, admittedly, requires courage but, on the plus side, stepping forward often brings accolades. I myself have often been told, “Thank goodness you spoke the truth, and now we can all say it though, of course, we may just quote you to be on the safe side.”
Remember, there is no reason to offend needlessly, but we have survived both individually and as a nation by confronting harsh realities. Every person alive today had ancestors who abhorred PC. Let’s hope that 180,000 years of human survival skills have not vanished. When push comes to shove, trust your instinct s about the bad guys. Contributing Editor Robert Weissberg is emeritus professor of political science, University of Illinois-Urbana and currently an adjunct instructor at New York University Department of Politics (graduate). He has written many books, the most recent being: The Limits of Civic Activism, Pernicious Tolerance: How teaching to "accept differences" undermines civil society and Bad Students, Not Bad Schools. Besides writing for professional journals, he has also written for magazines like the Weekly Standard and currently contributes to various blogs. 


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